Saturday, 27 August 2016

Gerard Rewrites History

Pic courtesy Lurching into Decrepitude

The Oz (the fart of the nation) published this piece by Gerard Henderson on August 20th.

As usual, Murdoch's broadsheet (which operates consistently at a loss), is smearing the ABC and SBS. You have to pay to comment on the Oz, so I'm using this platform to expose some of the comprehensive rewriting of history that is a feature of News Limited reporting of the Vietnam era.
Read Gerard's piece, and then reflect on this, gentle reader. Gerard's contributions are in italics -
Rather than debunking myths, Gerard’s piece creates a few of its own.

“All Australian men and women who served in Vietnam arrived in that nation at ports or on airfields controlled by the anti-communist government in Saigon (now called Ho Chi Minh City). There was no invasion.”

Depends what you mean by “invasion”, Gerard. When I arrived in Vietnam I disembarked from HMAS Sydney aboard a landing craft. Nobody was shooting at us, but to any dispassionate observer the activity would have looked very much like an invasion.

When I went out on operations with my infantry unit, we moved through country that was not controlled by the South Vietnamese government. That was why we were armed, patrolled without noise, and put out sentries at night. We behaved exactly like an invading army.

“The conflict between communist North Vietnam and non-communist South Vietnam was concluded in April 1975 when the North Vietnamese Army, with assistance of the Viet Cong in South Vietnam, who supported the Hanoi regime, conquered Saigon.”

To call North Vietnamese “Communist” and South Vietnam “Non - Communist” is a gross over-simplification. Vietnam was essentially a war of national liberation, a point made by our current Governor-General (who served in Vietnam as a platoon commander) when he was interviewed by the ABC on 19 March 2012. From the interview with Peter Cosgrove –

EPSTEIN: Does that mean that you think the war was fought tactically wrong or the perception that the perceived communist threat required an Australian response in Vietnam, was that perception incorrect?

COSGROVE: I don’t think the political environment inside South Vietnam was conducive to an enduring democratic state. I think the people in Vietnam across the board, ultimately seemed to prefer self-determination rather than the presence of a large number of foreign troops.

Obviously, Gerard has a different view of the history than someone who participated in it, and has an experience of the military reality.

“The star performer in the Ratcliffe package was Bowden. He complained that he could not get all his reports from Vietnam run on the public broadcaster at the time and provided the following explanation: “At that stage the (ABC) news executives were mostly old newspaper men, a lot of Catholics, and they saw the war as a holy crusade.”

What Bowden reports is accurate. Gerard has obviously forgotten B A Santamaria. Without the influence of the Movement, and the Catholic Right in the DLP, it is debatable whether the Coalition would have stayed in power long enough to send conscripts to a war in a foreign country in peacetime. Tell me, Gerard, when in our history has this been done before or since?

As for ” few, if any, supporters of Australia’s Vietnam commitment regarded it as a “holy crusade" Gerard was obviously not attending Sunday mass in a conservative diocese and listening to sermons about the evils of Communism as I was back then before I was called up.

“This focus on the Vietnam protest movement overlooks the fact most Australians supported the commitment.”

Again, a complete over simplification. There were two issues. One was sending troops to Vietnam, the other was conscription. Support for the commitment was initially strong, but began to wane during and after the Moratorium marches which took place in 1970, the year I was in Vietnam.
Support for conscription was never strong, and when the two issues became conflated, it became apparent very quickly, that community support for the troops was no longer there. That was an untenable situation, and Vietnam veterans suffered as much when they came home as they did in theatre. The government in power at the time bears as much responsibility for this situation as the anti war protestors. They conscripted us and sent us – not the protestors.

“As Edwards acknowledges, the US-led Vietnam commitment delayed a communist victory by 10 years — much to the benefit of nations such as Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore. This was also to Australia’s advantage.”

There is another way of looking at this. The continued support of a series of corrupt “governments” in South Vietnam may have simple prolonged the agony, and contributed to the millions of civilian casualties.
History is sacred, Gerard, especially to those who lived it.

Don't rewrite it.  

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